Did factory farms spread deadly disease to West Coast salmon?
For the first time ever, scientists have uncovered the presence of infectious salmon anemia, a deadly virus that has devastated farmed fish in Chile, in wild salmon populations on the West Coast.
This news arrived at a time when the Obama administration is fast-tracking the approval of genetically engineered Atlantic salmon, promoting environmental destructive corporate aquaculture facilities and pushing the privatization of public trust resources through the controversial “catch shares” program. (See: Exposed: Federal funding for GMO salmon?)
Scientists from Simon Fraser University reported at a news conference in Vancouver on October 17 that the virus had been found in 2 of 48 juvenile fish collected as part of a study of sockeye salmon in Rivers Inlet, British Columbia.
“The highly contagious marine influenza virus, Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA,) has for the first time been officially reported after being found in the Pacific on B.C.’s central coast,” according to a news release from the scientists.
“Now it threatens both wild salmon and herring,” said biologist Alexandra Morton and Simon Fraser University professor Rick Routledge, whose laboratory led to the discovery of ISA in B.C. salmon smolts.
Morton is calling for removal of Atlantic salmon from B.C. salmon farms. “Loosing a virus as lethal and contagious as ISA into the North Pacific is a cataclysmic biological threat to life,” said Morton. “The European strain of ISA virus can only have come from the Atlantic salmon farms. European strain ISA infected Chile via Atlantic salmon eggs in 2007.”
Morton says ISA was first found in Norway in 1984. “Since then, there have been lethal outbreaks in every important salmon-farming region around the globe, with the exception – or so we thought – of B.C. Now we know for sure that it has hit B.C.”
“The Cohen Inquiry revealed ISA symptoms have been reported in farm salmon in B.C. since 2006. The Fisheries Ministers have written me repeatedly that B.C. is safe from ISA. Clearly they are not in control of the situation,” Morton stated.
“If there is any hope, we have to turn off the source: Atlantic salmon have to be immediately removed,” she concluded.
Dr. Fred Kibenge of the ISA reference laboratory at the Atlantic Veterinary College in P.E.I. made the diagnosis and notified the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) of the positive results for the European strain of ISA virus, according to the release.
“ISA is a deadly exotic disease which could have devastating impacts on wild salmon and the many species that depend on them throughout much of British Columbia and beyond,” said Routledge. “The combined impacts of this influenza-like virus and the recently identified parvovirus that can suppress the immune system could be particularly deadly.”